CHAMPCAR/CART: This Week in Ford Racing - Mario Dominguez

CART FedEx Championship Mario Dominguez is competing in his first season as a driver in the CART FedEx Championship Series following three seasons in Indy Lights. Although he's scored just two championship points through five races, that cannot...

CART FedEx Championship

Mario Dominguez is competing in his first season as a driver in the CART FedEx Championship Series following three seasons in Indy Lights. Although he's scored just two championship points through five races, that cannot be used as an indication of how his season has progressed thus far. He's been fast at virtually every track and would have better results were it not for a series of misfortunes that have plagued him and team in the previous five events.

MARIO DOMINGUEZ, JR. - #55 Herdez Competition Ford

HOW HAS YOUR ROOKIE SEASON GONE FOR YOU THUS FAR?

"I don't think the results have really shown what we're capable of doing. We've been quick at a lot of places, but have been the victims of bad luck, even though I don't really believe in luck. But we've just had some instances, like in Mexico where we had a cable burning and didn't finish the race, and a mistake on my part in Long Beach. In Japan the officials made the wrong call - we had a very good fourth-place finish that we lost because of that, and last week in Milwaukee we were pretty fast all weekend, but in the race the fuel valve broke and we couldn't fuel the car anymore. So I don't think the results have portrayed what we can do, but hopefully things will start to get better. I'm just looking forward to getting to the point where the team and I are gelling, and that'll happen and the results will come."

WHAT KIND OF EXPECTATIONS DID YOU HAVE COMING INTO YOUR FIRST SEASON DRIVING CHAMP CARS?

"To tell you the truth, I knew that by the 10th race or about halfway through the season I could be running pretty well, but I did not expect the quick adjustment. We've been fast everywhere and we've definitely shown that we have speed, so I think we're on the right track. We've progressed faster than our expectations and we've got a lot more to come and I still have a lot more to learn. It's the best series with the best drivers in the world and you have to be very tough to drive against and try to beat these guys. I'm just working very hard every day trying to get better and better. Every time I learn in the car I think I'm getting better, but there are still a lot of things I need to learn. Hopefully by the end of the year we can be in the top 10 in the championship and win the rookie of the year award."

WHAT ARE SOME OF THE BIGGEST ADJUSTMENTS YOU'VE HAD TO MAKE IN JUMPING FROM INDY LIGHTS TO THE CHAMP CARS?

"The biggest differences are the races are longer and we have pit stops, which I'm not used to, and there is definitely a lot more media attention on me than before. There's also a lot more traveling because now we race all over the world, but that's about it."

HOW DO YOU THINK YOU'VE HANDLED THOSE CHALLENGES?

"I think I've done alright, but I think Indy Lights was a great series for me to learn in. If you can drive that car you can drive anything because it was so difficult to drive. When I first drove a Champ Car and got used to the 800 horsepower, it was just a beautiful experience."

INDY LIGHTS WAS A FAIRLY COMPETITIVE SERIES, BUT WERE YOU PREPARED FOR HOW COMPETITIVE IT IS IN CART? IT SEEMS LIKE ON ANY GIVEN WEEKEND THERE ARE 10 TO 15 GUYS CAPABLE OF WINNING.

"I think you'd be surprised by the competitiveness we had in Lights and it was much tougher than people think. Obviously, in CART there are drivers that can win almost every race and teams that have big budgets and are always capable of winning so it's definitely not an easy job to succeed here. But whomever works the hardest can do it, and that means working on the car, working on the engines, working on getting adequate sponsorship and that's the way it goes. It takes a total team effort to win here."

HOW MUCH HAS YOUR FAMILIARITY WITH THE TRACKS FROM YOUR INDY LIGHTS EXPERIENCE HELPED YOU THIS SEASON?

"Big time, big time. Just learning the tracks for me this season would've been a big disadvantage. Obviously when you drive the tracks in these cars it's a completely different experience than an Indy Lights car because it behaves so much differently. But still, the fact that we race at tracks that I know makes a world of difference."

DO YOU FIND THAT YOU PREFER OR EXCEL ON ONE TYPE OF TRACK OVER THE OTHERS?

"I like them all, and that's why I like CART because we're the only series that has everything. We have street races, road courses, small ovals and superspeedways, and they all present a different challenge. It's not even comparable to what it's like driving one of these cars on an oval to driving on a road course, and that's different from driving on a street course. They're all great and because they're so different I can't really say that I like one or the other any better."

IN MAKING THE TRANSITION FROM INDY LIGHTS TO CHAMP CARS, HAVE YOU HAD TO IMPROVE YOUR TECHNICAL KNOWLEDGE?

"There's a lot more variables to the Champ Car and things you can tweak, but the Lights car was such a hard car to set up and you had to work very closely with the engineer, maybe even harder than a Champ Car. I came here with pretty good knowledge, but every day I learn a little bit more and I guess every rookie would tell you that. And that's why you normally see rookies do better in their second or third year because they are absorbing so much information in the first season."

WHAT HAS BEEN YOUR EXPERIENCE RACING AT PORTLAND?

"Well, it's a very tough track and I haven't done very well there, to be honest. Hopefully my luck will change there next weekend."

WHAT IS IT ABOUT THE TRACK IN PORTLAND THAT MAKES IT CHALLENGING?

"Well, it is challenging and your car has to be very good. You have to develop a good rhythm through the S-turns and it's a pretty tough track."

LOOKING AHEAD TO THE REST OF THE SEASON, WHAT ARE SOME GOALS YOU'D LIKE TO ACCOMPLISH?

"I'd like to finish a couple of races in the top five, which I think we can do, but the key is to finish them. I think if we can finish some in the top five and some in the top 10; as long as we can run in the top 10 I will be very happy. And once you establish yourself as a top-10 runner, you always have a chance of being on the podium or in the winner's circle."

KEITH WIGGINS - Team Principal, Herdez Competition

WHAT KIND OF EXPECTATIONS DID YOU HAVE FOR MARIO IN HIS ROOKIE SEASON?

"I think we had relatively high expectations of him. You always come in expecting and wanting to do well. A rookie obviously has some disadvantages just like being with a one-car team, but I think we felt he deserved the chance to do it and he proved he was aggressive. Some of his results in other series were a bit checkered and it was hard to see a path, but we liked what we saw when we tested him and we expected him to be quick. Perhaps that's unfair of us to put pressure on him, but I think we all expect to be at the top."

ALTHOUGH YOU PROBABLY HAVEN'T GOTTEN OFF TO AS GOOD A START AS YOU HAD HOPED, BUT HOW MUCH OF THAT CAN BE ATTRIBUTED TO HIM AND HOW MUCH TO MISFORTUNE?

"Well, I don't think any of us are particularly happy with what has gone on in the last three or four races. I don't believe in luck, but it's been all these little issues that have plagued us and there's no reason for them. A black flag from CART (in Japan), which was a mistake, is very unfair and last week's issue (broken fuel fill valve) is just one of those things that happens to people. But I can't see any reason to blame Mario for those because without them we should've been in the top six for the last three or four races. He made an error in Long Beach, but he's a rookie and I would say he's exceeded our expectations. A reflection of that is the fact we were upset both in Milwaukee and Laguna Seca because we weren't in the top six and we should be. The reason we should be is because we can be, and that proves that he's up to speed. If you look at the speed that he's showed we're already expecting him to be right there. Perhaps that's a bit too much pressure, but as I said, if the races had gone well we could easily have been sitting in a very good position right now, so I would say that Mario has lived up to expectations. I think more will come from him as his confidence builds and he gains more experience and we should have a pretty strong package."

IF YOU COULD SOME UP MARIO IN A COUPLE OF WORDS, WHAT WOULD THEY BE?

"I guess positive and confident would be the best words. He believes in what he's doing and he has the sort of

"push" that we felt we lacked before, so I would say his positive thinking is helping him to do well."

WHAT ARE HIS PRIMARY STRENGTHS AS A DRIVER?

"It's a combination of things, but usually it's a chemistry between you and a driver. The nice thing is he's trying and he's got something to prove, as do we, so I guess through the good and the bad we've got a positive relationship together. I think it was good for all of us on the team to have new blood just because of the excitement of not knowing what lies ahead. He brings a positive vibe, and that along with the fact that he's new and we both feel like we're underdogs trying to get out has propelled us so far."

MAX PAPIS - #22 Sigma Autosport Ford - YOU'RE THE DEFENDING CHAMPION AT PORTLAND, SO COULD YOU TALK A BIT ABOUT RETURNING TO A MEMORABLE WIN FOR YOU.

"I think Portland was a very unique event last year. We were very quick both in the dry and in the rain, and we're going to go there to defend our crown and we're going to do better than we did today. My goal is to score points every time I finish and we failed to score any today, so I'm going to fight hard for a top-five finish Portland."

-ford-

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About this article
Series IndyCar
Drivers Mario Dominguez